Kyle Higgins is no stranger to writing Dick Grayson, but in his new DC series Nightwing: The New Order, he's got the former Robin in a very different role - policing a DC Elseworlds future where superpowers are illegal.
Higgins, well-known for his Nightwing run during the "New 52," has invented a future where Grayson and the public are tired of people having superpowers - because it got to the place where almost everybody did. And after a gigantic battle in Metropolis, the government follows Dick Grayson's lead to shut down the abilities of the populace.
Of course, this changes everyone's role in the DCU. Superman is now a street-level vigilante, and Lois Lane is a Blue Lantern. The world has completely changed because the government doesn't allow individuals to possess superpowers.
Higgins calls the story an "allegory" for many of the issues being faced in the world today, and says that Grayson and the U.S. government will discover that it's a slippery slope when people are policed with absolutes.
With Nightwing: The New Order kicking off this week - with art by Trevor McCarthy - Newsarama talked to Higgins to find our more about the writer's vision for the Elseworlds story and what readers can expect from this possible DC future.
Newsarama: Kyle, let's jump right into the story, because you've come up with this future that's filled with characters from the DCU, but in completely different roles, all because superpowers were taken away. Can you describe the background of the world you've built here?
Kyle Higgins: Yeah, in our story, the proliferation of superpowers and magic became such that they were incredibly easy to obtain and get. Like, you will actually see where somebody could go into like a bodega and buy telekinesis.
And it's not just for people to protect themselves from the heroes and villains - it's to protect themselves from every other normal person that now can get superpowers.
Everything ended up boiling over during a big kind of armageddon battle in Metropolis that lasted for days, and a lot of lives were lost.
And at a certain point, Dick Grayson decided something in the moment needed to be done. And he detonated a device that neutralized, in a blink, like 90 percent of the world's powers.
The story really looks at what happens after that, when legislation passes in the country that makes superpowers illegal.
It's an issue that becomes very important to the populace. This is what the country really wants.
Nrama: And Dick not only set this into motion during the battle involving the Justice League - they were some of the characters whose superpowers were "neutralized" - but Dick continues to be involved in the policing of superpower usage. What brought him to that point?
Higgins: Yeah, Dick joined this federal program that's built to police superpowers. He joined it because he thought he could bring a moral compass to it all.
Nrama: But it's a slippery slope.
Higgins: It is. There's that saying that we've seen pop up in the news recently in the wake of Charlottesville: "Dancing with the devil, you don't change the devil; the devil changes you."
And I think as the story goes on, you see how we got to this point and how Dick got to this point.
Nrama: For DC fans, I think it will also be cool to see all the characters of the DCU show up in this Elseworlds future. Can you tease some of the people we see in the series?
Higgins: Oh yeah, you see a lot of your favorite characters of the DCU projected 20 years forward and in this kind of strange environment.
Characters like Superman, who no longer has his powers, but he's still operating as a hero in the remains of Metropolis. He's kind of become this Batman version of Superman because he has to wear armor and he's more of an urban vigilante.
The design Trevor McCarthy did for that - he's been just an incredible collaborator on this. The design he put together for Superman is so awesome.
We also see a lot of Dick's former friends and lovers. You see where they are now. You see what happened to Starfire. You see where members of the Titans are.
Lois Lane is in a very, very different role in this story, but one I'm incredibly excited by.
I guess I can say - she's a Blue Lantern in this world.
Nrama: Lois Lane is a Blue Lantern?
Higgins: That's one of the things that's so much fun about telling an Elseworlds story - getting to establish characters in new, unexplored territory as well as new mantles. That's something we're trying to fully embrace with this series.
Nrama: And Dick's got a son in this future who's really important to the story. Can you talk about his role?
Higgins: Yeah, one of my favorite things about the story is that it's told from the point of view of Dick's 12-year-old son, but he's narrating it from the future, looking back on everything and asking these very questions - how does my dad, someone who was widely considered to be the heart of the DCU, get to this point?
It's really a generational story in that way.
Nrama: Who came up with the premise for this story? Is it an idea you had?
Kyle Higgins: It is. It started from a meeting I had with Dan DiDio, DC publisher, where we were talking about different project ideas. The idea of an Elseworlds-type story came up, and I immediately gravitated toward that.
I love alternate futures. Those are some of my favorite stories in the DC Universe - Superman: Red Son, Batman: Year 100, Dark Knights Returns - these alternate future takes on the characters that present a world that's complicated and different than the one we know but still allegorical to issues that we're experiencing in our day-to-day lives.
I gravitated toward doing something with Dick Grayson being the centerpiece, not only because of my affinity for him, but also because he's - in so many ways - the moral center of the DCU.
And then this idea of exploring... well it's like gun control in our country, but through the lens of superpowers. That was really interesting to me.
I've always been fascinated by the idea of superpowers in superhero comics and the ramifications of said powers, and fall-out of the using of powers. Some superhero stories explore that material, but often times they don't.
And then when you see big action films portray fights and battles, the question inevitably comes up about the aftermath of such a thing – the damage to buildings and lives lost and all these questions that, in comic books, we kind of gloss over.
It's always something that's been in the back of my mind, so diving into that became the beginnings of building this world where the powers went away.
Nrama: I think one of the hooks is that Dick doesn't seem to be the type to do this. Like, I would almost expect it from Batman.
Higgins: Yeah, it sounds like a story you could see Bruce being a big part in, or being the central character in. I felt like I'd seen that before. And I find it more interesting to look at it through the lens of Dick.
As you said, you wouldn't think he'd be the person to take on something like this. That's more interesting to me.
How bad had the world gotten, and what happened in Dick's life, to bring him to the point of believing that this is what's best to the world?
But let me clarify that nothing Dick did was done with bad intentions. The point of the story is to explore how slippery that slope is when you're trying to solve a problem with absolutes. You know?
Nrama: Right. But part of the mystery - and the spine of the story - is, what circumstances would make Dick Grayson of all people think this is a good idea?
Higgins: Yeah. We change the world every single day and the world changes us. We have a relationship with our communities, with our world, that is different day-to-day, year-to-year. And depending on the way things develops, sometimes what seems like the right decision - and may in fact be the right decision and direction in the moment - has unintended consequences you don't realize until it's too late is not the right direction.
When you see how bad the Battle of Metropolis was, something had to happen in the moment.
The story that then takes place after that is the one that's fascinating to me, and I think very allegorical to our country right now.
Nrama: And you mentioned you're working with Trevor McCarthy again?
Higgins: Yeah, I can't say enough great things about Trevor and Dean White, our colorist. Trevor and I did a series when he returned to the DCU, and when I started at DCU, called Gates of Gotham. And we have been itching to do a book together ever since, for the last six years now.
We flirted with stuff - he did covers on my Batman Beyond run, and he did covers on our series C.O.W.L. at Image. And he did a poster for a film I directed last year. But this is our first time doing a full series together, and we've been working on it in secret for well over a year and a half now. And so it's very exciting to finally have it hitting stands.
It's been a really challenging but rewarding experience. Hopefully people dig it!